God's love and justice How do they work together?
How are love and justice harmonious? Can God be both loving and just? Many times in Scripture, we see God's justice poured out on the people. It often seems so severe and unloving. For example, God judged Adam and Eve (Genesis 3), the world of Noah's day (Genesis 68), Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 1819), and the Egyptians with the 10 plagues (Exodus 712). God judged many individuals too, such as: Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-3), Achan (Joshua 7), Belshazzar (Daniel 5). How could God have sent judgment on these people and still be considered loving, merciful, gracious, and forgiving? And today, we often see judgment on those who seem undeserving. How can Gods love and justice work together?
We know that God's attributes work harmoniously. The idea that justice and love conflict, is the result of the attributes being defined in isolation from one another. In other words, in order to understand justice, we need to understand God's love. In order to understand His love, we need to understand His justice.
"Justice means that love must always be shown, whether or not a situation of immediate need presents itself in pressing and vivid fashion. Love in the biblical sense, then, is not merely to indulge someone near at hand. Rather, it inherently involves justice as well. This means there will be a concern for the ultimate welfare of all humanity, a passion to do what is right, and enforcement of appropriate consequences for wrong action. Actually, love and justice have worked together in God's dealing with the human race. God's justice requires that there be payment of the penalty for sin. God's love, however, desires humans to be restored to fellowship with him. The offer of Jesus Christ as the atonement for sin means that both the justice and the love of God have been maintained," writes Millard Erickson.1
When each attribute is understood in light of the other, love and justice are harmonious. They do not compete with each other, but stand side-by-side in complete harmony.
1 Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology, (Chicago: Moody Press), 324.
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